England, Scotland, Japan to meet at women's World Cup as Paris stages draw

England and Scotland will meet each other in their opening game at the 2019 women's World Cup in France after being placed in the same group in Saturday's draw alongside former winners Japan as well as Argentina.

The ceremony at La Seine Musicale in Boulogne-Billancourt, just outside Paris, also set reigning champions the United States up for a clash with Thailand to begin their defence of the title.

Meanwhile, hosts France were given a meeting with South Korea in the opening game of the 24-team tournament at the Parc des Princes in Paris on June 7 as Les Bleues hope to match their male counterparts, who won this year's World Cup in Russia.

The final will be played on July 7 in Lyon, the 58,000-seat stadium in the city that is home to the women's Champions League holders.

For England, the draw co-hosted by their former star Alex Scott handed them the tantalising prospect of an opening game in Group D against old rivals Scotland in Nice on June 9.

They also met in their opening group game at Euro 2017 in the Netherlands, with England romping to a 6-0 victory on their way to a semi-final defeat against the hosts.

"I think it's a great group," said England manager Phil Neville, who labelled the Scotland clash as a standout but also highlighted the matches that will follow.

"England against Argentina is historically always a feisty occasion and then England against Japan is two of the top five or six teams in the world, so we could not have asked for a better group."

Phil Neville's side were also semi-finalists at the 2015 World Cup in Canada, losing to Japan, while Scotland will be making their tournament debut.

Japan lost 5-2 to the United States in the 2015 final, and the reigning champions were drawn in Group F with Sweden, Thailand and tournament newcomers Chile.

- USA have 'more depth' -

The USA have won three of the previous seven tournaments and will fancy their chances of going all the way again, although they could meet France in the last eight.

"I think it's a good draw for us. It pits us against a couple of teams we are not that familiar with, which I like, and I like having Sweden in the third game," said USA coach Jill Ellis, who says she is putting together a strong squad for their title defence.

"I feel really good about this group. We have narrowed it down to a smaller group and I think we have a lot more depth in every line than we did in 2015."

- Norway 'not weaker' without Hegerberg -

That might sound ominous for France, who have disappointed at recent tournaments, losing in the quarter-finals in 2015 and again at the last Euro.

As well as South Korea, Corinne Diacre's team will also play African champions Nigeria and Norway in Group A, although the latter look set to go without star striker Ada Hegerberg.

The winner of the inaugural women's Ballon d'Or has not played for her country since Euro 2017.

"Norway qualified automatically, so no," was Diacre's reply when asked if the Scandinavians would miss Hegerberg.

Norway coach Martin Sjogren played down any prospect of Hegerberg being coaxed out of international retirement, saying: "We will see. We have had no contact with her at the moment."

- Australia face 'superpowers' -

Australia were among the top seeds but Alen Stajcic's side must face Brazil and Italy as well as debutants Jamaica in Group C. The Matildas will meet Italy in their opening game in Valenciennes on June 9.

"Brazil is a superpower of football, Italy is a traditional superpower of football and Jamaica is a new emerging nation," said Stajcic.

"It's going to be very exciting but tough for all four teams."

Two-time champions Germany are in Group B with China, Spain and South Africa, while 2015 hosts Canada are with European champions the Netherlands, Cameroon and New Zealand in Group E.

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